About The Playhouse

Chester Playhouse Theatre, Nova Scotia

Chester Playhouse, 2015

Chester Playhouse Theatre, Chester, Nova Scotia

The Chester Playhouse is owned and operated by the Chester Theatre Council Society (CTC).
A registered Society since 1984, the CTC is a charitable organization with a volunteer Board of Directors chosen from the members. The mission of the Society is: To foster, promote, encourage and develop the performing arts and to maintain a community arts facility in the municipality of the district of Chester.

The village of Chester is a seaside resort with a small year round population that more than doubles in July and August. The Chester Playhouse, located on the main street, was originally a movie theatre built in 1939 and converted for live entertainment in 1963 when the Chester Jesters presented the first summer productions on stage. In 1975, Leo and Dora Velleman operated Canadian Puppet Festivals from the theatre until merging with Mermaid Theatre in 1983. In 1987 the building was purchased by Sir Christopher Ondaatje, who donated it to the Theatre Council, renamed it the Chester Playhouse, and the first Chester Summer Theatre Festival presented a series of touring shows over an eight week period.

In 1993 the first phase of renovations took place and the capacity rose to the present 176. In 2000, a much more substantial renovation was under taken with a two-story addition made to the back of the building which now incorporates dressing rooms and a Green Room, as well as a workshop in which to create props and sets. A beautiful, new upper lobby was added along with expanded offices. Renovations continued in 2005 bringing new washrooms and an improved entranceway. Despite all of these major changes, the Chester Playhouse remains one of the most charming and intimate small theatres in Atlantic Canada.

Matching the physical growth of the Playhouse is a steady growth in performances. In 1987 the 1st summer Festival presented a brief summer festival of touring plays, and the theatre has now evolved to offer a year round schedule of approximately one hundred performances: high profile popular concerts, touring theatre and dance, classical music, readings and lectures, films, community rentals, comedy, world premiere theatre productions, musicals and so on.

We have established the Playhouse as a venue for community outreach through presentations by local school drama groups, Nova Dance Studios, The Chester Drama Society, and a winter play reading series. The Playhouse also sponsors many other community groups as a venue for benefits and fundraising. We have established a very successful after school acting program for youth aged 4-18 and have had a summer theatre school for the past 18 years. We partner with the local schools to bring students to specific performances and also offer discounted tickets to students for all of our productions through the eyeGO to the Arts program.

The support for the playhouse continues to be demonstrated through significant financial donations from Members and Patrons. We are extremely thankful to all the supporters, our sponsors, advertisers and volunteers who all play a large role in the operations of the theatre.

On the administrative level, the Chester Playhouse is in good fiscal health. We have built solid fundraising models, and to date we have had a small surplus every year through diversified revenue sources. As a result, the CTC has no mortgage, and has established modest reserves to support building maintenance and cash flow needs. The Board of Directors has established an endowment fund to secure the future financial stability of The Playhouse and the Board has worked diligently to complete the many governance requirements resulting from our participation in the Sustainability Program of the NS Foundation for Heritage and the Arts. The Theater has been successful in attaining continuous Financial Operating Status from the Province of Nova Scotia, as well as a series of project grants from the Province of Nova Scotia, The Canada Council and Canadian Heritage.

The future for theatre and the arts is very challenging, yet we look forward to the creative process that develops on all levels of our operation to ensure our long term viability.

Lisa Gleave,
General Manager
The Chester Playhouse.